How a shocking environmental disaster was uncovered off the California coast after 70 years

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/california-environmental-disaster-ocean-ddt-sea-lions/

BY JEFF BERARDELLI

APRIL 12, 2021 / 6:48 AM / CBS NEWShttps://www.cbsnews.com/embed/video/?v=27c2db22c86bece439a19414820ef4a4#vVZtb9s2EP4rgj4OoSVKol4MDEOyFGixLgua9FM0GBR5stlQoiBKjr0i%2F31HWXZeVqBA1xaBEYm61%2BfunuNnn4%2BD6TTf%2B8uhH%2BHM3yoJxl9%2B9tUAjfWXd5%2F9Yd%2BBv%2FS3RvpnvpL4SEGKgtU1ARCUJCwDUnCWkrCGKoqKGtJUoGzT7T5A%2Fc5pMBHG2T%2FnSU7freI0f7t%2F08dZy837qwjeR1d7lLZ6XKPkYHZKEDk2ncUQyEMP%2FF61a7LhWyOIaUnHhapRxAjgLQFh7N5OsZ75gxq0C%2FXy8tY7WvAmC9ab9D3Teg3vVQueVjWgioR7VMCHetT6qH%2FrYnhlAWN4snF9iMH7y8XgvYhB8Na0SnB9%2Bx2MDaoBO%2FCm85c0pXnIWBSmYRhi3GPPB2VafxmzZ6%2FveQUanYZsyUI0oA%2FvLSaHtWv4GqwrrnU12QxDZ5dlUAaisi082GiBDwr9DUoshGnKYDNWZaDKoC%2BDKIxoGYRJGdCwDJKCpTGjIUmBxSQBlpBc0oyEsgrzIi%2ByFNIyGDZjU7Vc6TJIk3AXp6hZ84rzMKrDKs3iKEkTzKhKZRixKBdM1odoSD1aTId8czeQk2%2BS5kUSZWSOYPGpWyMwmy8iQH8gAjTKw10WoapgWZVIRkFUdcQhpXEUAuciLvAnaPZTIHg887setgoePvb6BRa200rAgjd6vVCmDHiH%2BW8j%2FDluKIOvzXIZzIbLwD8RyjP7XW%2FkAtlk%2BrKYkT%2BgPb%2BgK8R7o%2B1r0GmexznNWFxkMcOmcmmx1STYcEy6XzTxmB%2B9Rj%2FdbW36hg%2FolncOxGkky2BHmg7WHz%2B8R4nxFdgPDw8vY5lB%2FuaqT6Ar%2B67pjIvMX9ZcWyR2pHklJmJ3nZ%2FVFJm6SkjMIiCUQkxyATkJk0xmFWVVEcETJ2OA2EzKksb0rYvC8mHsJXe0vVHQ815scIPcOUHPCXqzoOPDV0feSfdv7EDeQzvcutCueOPY8veLG%2B%2FWif95snDycLE%2FCN19SermZBY7GzpljURRijkAt44nfeoSgnWDHg8fxg4b1doTRFzrcyHw5EIbcX9iTfvRQn8zVlb0qgJ5Eredaa3pj3Ib2J1fQs1H7RogPMM%2Ffzq9eDqNi7OEnbHCUXvPhauoKwkW3grTw%2FSMXRuHIQvzFMFLDpBcze3h8Ezx6BfnEl9au7LDau2Acx10OOHdirt8r8rg%2FCQjnPutoPR0YodXth8RuGbcXfemg37Y%2FwFYUj9KMpC422OaScqSIiloFMc8Tv1HrF8DA5%2F2CWYzwHrvnvFsY%2BRhBqCVk9m5j2pwRQJJhFtX4O4T8%2BUC%2FSOarjJPWxwfkXrw4TQUuw3OpzBagzhM1kkN98or22Xwm7IrbdZrkCvV%2Fho6xnsOurJvWl5pV9DD1Yf3yPoazkeMv3e3ljs%2FimTMw5wRARledCIQBAcjwXGjSSHDWIo8cn38QvXYpJ%2Bgrr3K9a4ErdUzuelKVCVohGWc1CzJSUJzSSoaoW0Zi1pSnM7CFWtWuR6rS0zLVQSpCecUh9aj0ZKyJX0mdrx0bMyDxz27MVO6HrRb1ZvWtT7XnlR2Yi3vgVtvbIXZAgLnGQx32ICHdxdVu7ninjAo6PHaCWehtwfe22fOjrVrBzS8mk%2BnS9UWN8j8WYK9R%2FKZWOkSti4D303%2B%2BijgOnflrptuPvH%2FW%2BVo6863QkErwOHmjm8ORUeF44fD%2BWwFJ9nNo9riFQsqfya8CekM5wnvGpRUES0I9jCQquYFqTNa5HVUVIyxo8JMQ08utGoUTkpyyvrGjL2AAyt689RVPW%2FlteaDWwCTz5nTVy7C1RME7nV2MUs4x4CIj41rSlxStdLPPjsFFMEC4plbYa6NT3fM16v7P9vksNaeKkpedAI5dsK8RaQcCNIl0YjzYZE0IBW%2FNhgFHs1Ia%2BByruAP9%2B%2BczHj9f2MTi3w15O%2BwgB8f%2FwU%3D

Just 10 miles off the coast of Los Angeles lurks an environmental disaster over 70 years in the making, which few have ever heard about. That is, until now, thanks to the research of a University of California marine scientist named David Valentine. 

Working with little more than rumors and a hunch, curiosity guided him 3,000 feet below the ocean’s surface. A few hours of research time and an autonomous robotic submersible unearthed what had been hidden since the 1940s: countless barrels of toxic waste, laced with DDT, littering the ocean floor in between Long Beach and Catalina Island. 

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DR. DAVID VALENTINE

The fact that his underwater camera spotted dozens of decaying barrels immediately in what is otherwise a barren, desert-like sea floor, Valentine says, is evidence that the number of barrels is likely immense. Although the exact number is still unknown, a historical account estimates it may be as many as a half a million.https://www.cbsnews.com/newsletters/widget/e879?v=27c2db22c86bece439a19414820ef4a4&view=compact#vVPLbtswEPwVgmczFmkJetxSpEB7KQKkPdVFQJGrmI1ECiQlwQj87106cuL0WqA3cXb2NbN6oW6MxtlAmxcKymmgDYWqrOmGzgYWfCk3jFJFBEYXTCIjeBsCRPLJ6SM9bWj0Uj0b%2B5SKmPDZyrYHTZvoJ9hQ6aNRPdxO8eD8V4R%2FUiH0TmZVwRSUnOUCFKsF5AwUz2ud7bSqBP31V%2Bo3OUBK%2Fg1dR1rw0mvoe3PFS8Vpm2ORopSsK%2FKK5bzSrOUCa%2Bud6jQXoq05fUu5n9o7GdPSIhOcZTnjnHDR8KLhV7TvJvaJdHALkSQc3HldAnY23tkBbJQ90SbIEMGTRQYyWeVm8KCJw3HjAYiSvemct0YS5ZBIZJfIZUaOIH24anYc4ay7jVj4cUUxrmE26hLWEJ6jGxE24Q7mtEGySD5dCBaW8GgiDAijb%2FDFgE%2F6BWXAKki6JfgB1OrpJfCKr1U8hBHPw8xAFmgxhj2NOitd7rKs3KFqreA1y%2BscWNvJmnUlr6tO1G1RFJeEV%2FOuWkwB%2FNpCWmy%2Fob0ZTKRN%2FqbDg5u8OivRBpK2QVLrpdX3vYyo5HCeAoPnTdPMj%2B%2BipOfadGWkUQA9mIZ0pqN3nemvwikBKWgpYhjV6bBVms2gcz98n%2ByPcQzNfrvfLstysybe4A%2By36av%2FfbdY%2FbhNtjlNphTIC3TOrIAkvXp19tvV%2BP%2BS5NVlH8tdjr9AQ%3D%3D

After 70-plus years of inaction, Valentine’s research has finally helped initiate a huge research effort to reveal the extent of the contamination.

But this offshore dump site is only a part of the story of environmental damage from years of DDT discharge along the coast of Southern California — a story which likely won’t be closed for decades to come because of its ongoing impact, including a recently discovered alarming and unprecedented rate of cancer in the state’s sea lion population, with 1 in every 4 adult sea lions plagued with the disease.

The history of DDT dumping

The chemical DDT was invented in 1939 and used during World War II as a pesticide helping to protect troops from insect-borne diseases like Malaria. After the war, production of the chemical ramped up and it became routinely used in the spraying of crops, and even over crowded beaches, to eliminate pests like mosquitos.

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CBS NEWS

But in the 1960s, DDT was discovered to be toxic. Over time, eating food laced with DDT builds up inside the tissues of animals and even humans, resulting in harmful side effects. The EPA now calls it a “probable human carcinogen.” In 1972, when the U.S. government started taking environmental pollution seriously with legislation like the Clean Air Act, DDT was banned in the United States.  

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The largest DDT manufacturer in the U.S., Montrose Chemical Corporation, was located along the Southern California coast in the city of Torrance. From 1947 through 1982, Montrose manufactured and distributed DDT worldwide. In doing so, a byproduct mix of toxic sludge made up of petrochemicals, DDT and PCBs was produced.

For decades, that hazardous waste was disposed of in two ways. Some of the toxic pollution was dumped into storm drains and the sewer system, which was then pumped out to sea through outflow pipes, 2 miles offshore of the city of Rancho Palos Verdes.

The rest of the waste was disposed of in barrels which were loaded onto barges and floated 10 to 15 miles offshore to waste dumping sites off Catalina Island and then jettisoned into the ocean.

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CBS NEWS

While it may seem hard to believe, at least part of the dumping was legally permitted. Back then, Valentine says, the prevailing thought was the ocean’s were so huge that they could never be compromised. The mantra was “dilution is the solution to pollution” — in hindsight a naïve notion.

But while the designated dumping site was very deep — in 3,000 feet of water — Valentine says shortcuts were taken, with barrels being dumped much closer to shore. And, in an effort to get the barrels to sink, there is evidence that many were slashed, allowing poison to leak, as they were dropped into the ocean. 

For decades, the existence of these toxic barrels was surmised only by a very small group of scientists and regulators. That’s despite a startling report produced in the 1980s by a California Regional Water Quality Control Board scientist named Allan Chartrand, which asserted there may be as many as 500,000 barrels laced with DDT sitting on the ocean floor.

The report was largely ignored. But after nearly 30 years, Valentine dusted it off as he began his quest to see if these barrels existed. 

The inshore toxic waste site

Unlike the deep water dumping sites, the shallower toxic site — called the Palos Verdes Shelf — 2 miles off the beaches of Rancho Palos Verdes was well-known and documented. In 1996, this zone was declared a Superfund clean-up site by the EPA, now comprising a 34-square-mile area. Montrose was sued and after a protracted legal battle ending in late 2000 the companies involved, including Montrose, settled for $140 million.

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CBS NEWS

Over the past two decades, most of the money has been used by a program called the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program (MSRP) to try to restore the contaminated sites. Half of the funds were allocated to the EPA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to rehabilitate ecosystems impacted by the poison.

DDT gets into the food chain when it is consumed from the contaminated ocean bottom by tiny marine creatures, which are then eaten by small fish, which are then consumed by larger fish and marine mammals, like sea lions. Over time DDT builds up in the tissues and blubber of marine animals, a process called bioaccumulation. To this day, signs all along the Southern California coast warn fishermen not to eat certain fish. Despite this, you cannot get DDT contamination from swimming in the water.

Scientists say the contamination at this shallower water site is the most likely food chain route which leads to DDT building up in sea lion blubber. That’s because there is a much greater amount of marine life living in shallower water. But that does not rule out contamination from the much deeper site as well. 

To try to remedy these pollution problems, NOAA has used its share of the funds to manage almost 20 restoration projects off the LA coast, like restoring kelp forest habitat, helping migratory seabirds and restoring 500 acres of critical coastal marsh habitat in Huntington Beach.

The last project of the effort — just completed — was the commissioning of an artificial reef just off the beaches of Rancho Palos Verdes. To accomplish this, NOAA hired a team of scientists from the Southern California Marine Science Institute and Vantuna Research Group at Occidental College to design and deploy the reef. 

The reef building effort was led by Jonathan Williams, a marine biologist from Occidental College. The project involved strategically placing more than 70,000 tons of quarry rock on the ocean bottom just off the beach. Williams says that the reef was an immediate success, with thousands of fish flocking to the rocks.

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NOAA FISHERIES

This reef site is much closer to shore than the contamination site, which is 2 miles from land. That’s by design. Williams says the idea is to construct new habitat for fish and kelp in uncontaminated areas to build up healthy populations of fish. This helps limit the amount of toxins, like DDT, which enters the food chain.

As predators at the top of the food chain, DDT in fish is also a danger to people. Williams says this is especially true of underserved communities who are mostly likely to subsistence fish, eating what they catch. In this way, NOAA’s project addresses environmental justice by attempting to make fish more safe to eat. 

Two miles offshore, Williams says that after years of measuring high levels of DDT on the Palos Verdes Shelf, levels have started to drop precipitously, a sign that some of the DDT may finally be starting to break down. 

Discovering the barrels

Despite the fact that the toxic barrels were dumped in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, their existence just became common knowledge this past fall when the Los Angeles Times published a feature on Valentine’s work. But his discovery dates all the way back to 2011 when he first decided to see if the rumors of the barrels were true. In 2013 he made another short trip to the site. But his research was not published until March of 2019. https://c55fadcb7585363c5692a38ab3e59214.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

In all, his time-limited work yielded visuals of 60 barrels. Besides bringing back video of the leaking barrels, his team was also able to collect samples from the ocean floor. One of them registered a contamination 40 times greater than the highest contamination at the Superfund site, indicating that the toxins down deep are still very concentrated.

Armed with this compelling evidence, Valentine said that he “beat the drum” for years, speaking to various government agencies, trying to get some interest, but to no avail. However, when the LA Times story came out, interest finally followed as public outcry grew.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Fweatherprof&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfX0%3D&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1369755436077957125&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cbsnews.com%2Fnews%2Fcalifornia-environmental-disaster-ocean-ddt-sea-lions%2F&sessionId=4ed6173f3a53dcdaaada320f06d67e614d13bae2&siteScreenName=CBSNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=1ead0c7%3A1617660954974&width=550px

But before his discovery in 2011, Valentine placed part of the blame for the lack of knowledge about the barrels on the lack of technology to find it. It’s only in the past couple of decades that the technology became available to make this deep water research feasible.

Coincidentally, on the very day CBS News went to visit Valentine in Southern California, Scripps Institution of Oceanography began a two-week mission to survey almost 50,000 feet of the deep ocean seafloor. 

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SCRIPPS

Employing a large research vessel called the Sally Ride, 31 scientists and crew members, and two high-tech autonomous robots they call Roombas, the team used sophisticated sonar to map the ocean bottom and assess how many barrels there are.  

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Scripps Researchers aboard the Research Vessel Sally Ride using the REMUS 600 and Bluefin automated underwater vehicles (AUVs) to survey the seafloor for discarded DDT barrels in March 2021.SCRIPPS

As of our last conversation with Eric Terrill, the team leader, the final number had still not been tallied. But even as early as a week into the research mission, Terrill described detecting tens of thousands of targets and said the number of barrels seemed “overwhelming.”

The two-week mission is now complete, but the team is still putting together the pieces. They expect to have a final report published at the end of April.

Sea lions in trouble

Located right near the Golden Gate Bridge, the mission of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California is to rescue marine mammals in distress. Since 1975, the organization says they have rescued 24,000.

In December, the team published a 30-year study on sea lions, finding an alarming statistic: 25% of adult sea lions have cancer.

CBS News interviewed the lead veterinarian Dr. Cara Field. She called the number of sea lions with cancer both “extremely alarming” and “unprecedented in wildlife.” Last year the Marine Mammal Center had to euthanize 29 sea lions because of cancer.

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NOAA FISHERIES

In the report, the research team pointed to a combination of herpesvirus and contaminants like DDT and PCBs as the cause of cancer. In all cases of cancer, sea lions had elevated levels of DDT and PCBs in their blubber. The theory goes that the contaminants weaken the body’s immune system, making the virus more effective.

Because sea lions travel up and down the California coast yearly, scientists believe they may pick up the contaminants when they are near their breeding site on the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California.

And while it seems logical that the sea lion contamination is coming from polluted sites in shallow water, scientists do not yet know how much of the DDT from barrels in deeper water may be entering the food chain. This, they say, will require more research.

While there are still many unanswered questions, one lesson from this story of DDT contamination is clear: When humans callously pollute the environment it can have consequences for generations to come. One current example is human-caused climate change. The question is, how much of a burden will our children and grandchildren have to bear as result of our choices?

Center for Biological Diversity
For Immediate Release, December 12, 2018Contact: Jonathan Evans, (510) 844-7118, jevans@biologicaldiversity.org

Analysis: Rat Poison Found in 85 Percent of Tested Mountain Lions, Bobcats, FishersPoisonings Prompt California to Reassess Super-toxic RodenticidesSACRAMENTO, Calif.— A new state analysis has documented super-toxic rat poisons in more than 85 percent of tested mountain lions, bobcats and protected Pacific fishers, prompting state regulators to open a new evaluation of whether to further restrict or ban the powerful toxins.The California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s analysis of 11 different wildlife studies indicates non-target animals continue to be poisoned in large numbers despite state restrictions on the sale and use of the deadliest rodenticides since 2014. The long-lasting super toxins often poison non-target animals that eat poisoned rodents.“This alarming new evidence should spur the state to ban these dangerous poisons,” said Jonathan Evans, legal director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental health program. “There are safer, cheaper alternatives that greatly reduce risks to wildlife, pets and children. Pesticide regulators have no excuse for continuing to allow California’s wildlife to die slow, excruciating deaths.”Four years ago the state limited the sale and use of the so-called super-toxic rat poisons — known as second-generation anti-coagulant rodenticides — to licensed applicators. But they are still allowed throughout the state for agricultural users and licensed pest-control operators.The ongoing wildlife poisonings and legal pressure from wildlife advocates prompted the Department of Pesticide Regulation to open a reevaluation of the powerful rodenticides. As part of the assessment, the public can submit comments through Jan. 16.The new state analysis documented super-toxic rat poisons in more than 90 percent of tested mountain lions, 88 percent of tested bobcats and 85 percent of protected Pacific fishers tested.Along with the high percentage of poisoning among tested mountain lions, fishers and bobcats, the re-evaluation analysis documented the potent rat toxins in seven out of ten endangered northern spotted owls tested and 40 percent of tested barred owls.In addition, research included in the analysis suggested that anticoagulant rodenticides are associated with the often-deadly mange, a malady that can result in population level harms to bobcats.Background
The harm caused by the super-toxic second generation anticoagulant rodenticides in California is well documented. More than 70 percent of wildlife tested in California in recent years has been exposed to dangerous rodenticides. Officials have found poisonings in more than 25 different species of animals, including endangered wildlife such as the San Joaquin kit fox and Pacific fisher.More than 4,400 children under age 6 were poisoned with the long-acting anticoagulant rodenticides in the United States in 2016, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. The Environmental Protection Agency has found that children in low-income families are disproportionately exposed to the poisons. Thousands of incidents of pets being poisoned by rodenticides have also been reported, many resulting in serious injury or death.Effective affordable, alternatives to rat poison include rodent-proofing of homes and farms by sealing cracks and crevices and eliminating food sources; providing owl boxes in rural areas to encourage natural predation; and using traps that don’t involve these highly toxic chemicals. For more information on nontoxic rodent control methods, visit SafeRodentControl.org.
Mountain lion
Mountain lion photo courtesy USFWS. This image is available for media use.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

California Court Approves Ban on Federal Wildlife Poisoning, Trapping


For Immediate Release: April 7, 2020

Restrictions Aim to Protect Rare Tricolored Blackbirds, Beaver, Gray Wolves

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — In response to a lawsuit filed by wildlife advocacy groups, a federal animal-killing program must restrict its use of bird-killing poisons in Northern California and stop setting strangulation snares and other traps in places like the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

The agreement, approved today by a San Francisco federal court, also directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to analyze the environmental impacts of its killing of coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions and other wildlife in California’s “Sacramento District.” This 10-county region covers Colusa, El Dorado, Lake, Marin, Napa, Placer, Sacramento, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo counties.

“This victory will save hundreds of animals that would have needlessly suffered and died in traps set by Wildlife Services over the next several years,” said Collette Adkins, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney representing the conservation groups involved in the lawsuit. “It’s another important win in our fight to shut down this agency’s destructive and indiscriminate war on bobcats, coyotes and other wildlife.”

Under the court order approved today, Wildlife Services must provide, by the end of 2023, an “environmental impact statement” that analyzes the effects and risks of its wildlife-killing program in the Sacramento District. It must also offer opportunities for public input.

Pending completion of that study, the court order imposes several measures to protect wildlife in the 10-county area. For example, it restricts use of the avicide DRC-1339 to prevent accidental poisoning of state-threatened tricolored blackbirds. It also bans any use of body-gripping traps, such as strangulation snares, in several areas.

The court order further ends most beaver-killing in waterways where endangered wildlife depends on beaver-created habitats. The order also spells out several measures to protect California’s endangered gray wolves from being accidentally killed in traps set for other carnivores.

“We are pleased that Wildlife Services has agreed to consider the environmental impacts of its wildlife-killing program,” said Cristina Stella, an attorney at the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Wild animals in California deserve our protection, and this victory assures that they will be free from some of the cruelest killing practices until Wildlife Services complies with federal law.”

“This agreement will ensure greater transparency and accountability from a federal agency that has run roughshod over America’s wildlife for far too long,” said Camilla Fox, Project Coyote executive director. “Many cost effective, non-lethal solutions exist to address human-wildlife conflicts that are more humane, ecologically sound and ethically defensible. We are hopeful that this settlement will propel a shift in this direction statewide.”

Today’s victory is the result of a lawsuit filed in August 2019 by the Center for Biological Diversity, Animal Legal Defense Fund and Project Coyote.

Background

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services is a multimillion-dollar federal program that uses painful leghold traps, strangulation snares, poisons and aerial gunning to kill coyotes, cougars, birds and other wild animals. Most of the killing is in response to requests from the agriculture industry.

In 2018 Wildlife Services reported killing nearly 1.5 million native animals nationwide. That year, in California, the program reported killing 26,441 native animals, including 3,826 coyotes, 859 beavers, 170 foxes, 83 mountain lions and 105 black bears. The 5,675 birds killed in 2018 in California included blackbirds, ducks, egrets, hawks, owls and doves.

Today’s victory follows several other recent wins by wildlife advocates in their campaigns against Wildlife Services, including in California (2019 and 2017), Oregon (2018), Colorado (2017), Arizona (2017), Idaho (2019 and 2018) and Wyoming (2019).

Trump’s EPA Re-Approves ‘Cyanide Bombs’ Deadly to Coyotes, Foxes and Feral Dogs, other Wildlife

Coyote pictured at Yellowstone National Park. Hanna May / Unsplash

Wildlife advocacy groups cheered when the Trump administration reversed its decision to approve the use of deadly predator traps known as “cyanide bombs” in August. But now the administration has reversed course again. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published an interim decision Thursday and approved their use with added safety measures.

“This appalling decision leaves cyanide traps lurking in our wild places to threaten people, pets, and imperiled animals,” carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity Collette Adkins said in a joint press release from wildlife groups. “The EPA imposed a few minor restrictions, but these deadly devices have just wreaked too much havoc to remain in use. To truly protect humans and wildlife from these poisonous contraptions, we need a nationwide ban.”

They became especially controversial after one of them injured a young boy in Idaho in 2017 and killed his dog. Idaho then prohibited their use on public lands, according to the joint press release, and Oregon and Colorado have also issued temporary bans, Time reported. When the EPA opened a public comment period on reauthorizing the use of the traps at the end of 2018, “an overwhelming majority” of the 20,000 comments it received opposed them. Environmental groups credited this public outcry with the EPA’s decision in August to reverse its initial approval of the traps.

But the livestock industry supports the use of the traps and praised the EPA’s new authorization.

“We sincerely appreciate USDA and EPA working together to ensure livestock producers have access to effective predator control, while also increasing public awareness and transparency,” American Sheep Industry Association President Benny Cox said in the EPA announcement. “Livestock producers face heavy losses from predators, amounting to more than $232 million in death losses annually. We are particularly vulnerable during lambing and calving, where we see the worst predation.”

  1. Prohibiting the use of traps within 600 feet of a residence, except with the landowner’s permission
  2. Extending the buffer zone around public roads from 100 to 300 feet
  3. Placing two elevated warning signs within 15 feet of the traps.

But wildlife advocates say the restrictions do not go far enough to protect humans or animals.

“Tightening up use restrictions is turning a blind eye to the reality of M-44s,” Predator Defense Executive Director Brooks Fahy said in the press release. “In my 25 years working with M-44 victims, I’ve learned that Wildlife Services’ agents frequently do not follow the use restrictions. And warning signs will not prevent more dogs, wild animals, and potentially children from being killed. They cannot read them. M-44s are a safety menace and must be banned.”

t’s Time To Get The Lead Out Of Hunting Ammo

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ELIMINATING LEAD BULLETS ISN’T ANTI-HUNTING, CONSERVATIONISTS SAY; IT’S BEING PRO-HUMAN AND WILDLIFE HEALTH. FRANZ CAMENZIND ASKS: WHAT SPORTSMAN WOULD BE OPPOSED TO THAT?

A bald eagle and other avian scavenger feast upon a deer wounded by a hunter's bullet  that later died.  If any of these birds ingests lead, chances are high it could get sick or die.  Every year, bald eagles, America's national wildlife symbol, die from exposure to lead ammo. Photo courtesy Craighead Beringia South in Jackson Hole
A bald eagle and other avian scavenger feast upon a deer wounded by a hunter’s bullet that later died. If any of these birds ingests lead, chances are high it could get sick or die. Every year, bald eagles, America’s national wildlife symbol, die from exposure to lead ammo. Photo courtesy Craighead Beringia South in Jackson Hole

How many times have we used the phrase “get the lead out” to encourage action on this or that issue? Well, it’s time to take these words literally and get the lead out of our hunting ammunition; hunters, it’s time to go lead-free.

Why? The following words from a Yellowstone National Park press release makes this call to arms tragically clear: “A golden eagle was found dead on December 6, 2018, near Phantom Lake in the northern section of Yellowstone National Park. A recent lab necropsy indicated the cause of death was lead poisoning.”
This, the first adult female golden eagle marked with a radio transmitter in Yellowstone’s history was to be part of a long-term study to determine how eagles go about their life in the park.
Yellowstone’s 2018 resource report states that 20 of its 28 known golden eagle territories were located in the northern range. This was likely one of those eagles; a territorial bird that along with her mate, should have raised young this year. Instead she is dead, poisoned- likely from eating fragments of lead bullets embedded in gut piles found just beyond the park’s northern boundary. So concludes the press release.
Her body may never have been found were it not for the radio transmitter, which begs the question: what are the odds that this one dead eagle is the only one so struck down?
And more recently, an immature bald eagle was found dead in Glacier Park. Cause of death: lead poisoning.
THE VICTIMS AND THE MAGNITUDE
 
Eagles are not alone when it comes to suffering the ill effects of lead poisoning. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that in 2016, the worldwide human death toll attributed to all lead exposures was 540,000. Both the WHO and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) state unequivocally that there is no level of lead exposure that is considered safe for humans. The same can be said for our wildlife.
Lead is one of first the most studied, naturally occurring toxins. In the past century, hundreds of papers have been published describing the deadly hazards imposed by the tons of lead recklessly flung into the environment by hunters, recreational shooters and fishing enthusiasts. The U.S. Geological Survey recently estimated that figure to be between 6,000 and 10,000 tons annually—that’s 12 to 20 million pounds of lead that enters our nation’s uplands, wetlands and waterways each year.

The U.S. Geological Survey recently estimated that between 6,000 and 10,000 tons annually—that’s 12 to 20 million pounds of lead related to hunting ammo and fishing tackle— enters our nation’s uplands, wetlands and waterways each year.

From a hunting perspective, it is impossible to estimate the tonnage break down between small caliber-recreational shooters, lead shot by upland game bird hunters and the amount of large caliber lead bullets used by big game hunters. What matters is where the lead ends up.
What we know is that along with humans, upwards of 130 species of wildlife, including at least 75 bird species are susceptible to lethal and sub-lethal doses of lead. And to that point, there are reliable estimates that spent lead ammunition kills between 10 and 20 million animals annually in the United States. That’s in addition to what hunters kill outright.
Scavenging birds, such as bald and golden eagles are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning. Of the 130 bald and golden eagles tested from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska at the Washington State University’s Raptor Rehabilitation Center, 48 and 62 percent respectively had blood lead levels (BLLs) considered toxic.

Staff at the Raptor Center in the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine, estimate that90 percent of the 120 to 130 bald eagles they receive each year have elevated BLLs. Of these, 20-25 percent either die or are euthanized, and over the course of 24 years, the staff reports that well over 500 eagles have met that fate.

Scavengers suffer lead poisoning by ingesting the offal left from big game hunters, as well as from the remains of the countless ground squirrels, prairie dogs and coyotes killed with lead ammunition and left in the field to be fed upon by every hungry scavenger.
For example, “recreational” shooters reported killing an estimated two million black-tailed prairie dogs per year in just three of the eleven states in which they occur. Undoubtedly, the majority was shot with lead bullets and left where they fell. At 2.5 pounds per prairie dog, potentially 5 million pounds of lead-contaminated carcasses were left on the killing fields for scavengers to unwittingly ingest.

“Recreational” shooters reported killing an estimated two million black-tailed prairie dogs per year in just three of the eleven states in which they occur. Undoubtedly, the majority was shot with lead bullets and left where they fell. At 2.5 pounds per prairie dog, potentially 5 million pounds of lead-contaminated carcasses were left on the killing fields for scavengers to unwittingly ingest.

This does not include the unknown number of white-tailed prairie dogs shot each year in the name of recreating.
THE PATHWAY TO LETHAL POISONING 
 
Why is lead so easily and routinely ingested by man and beast alike?
Lead bullets, whether pure or copper jacketed have a nasty habit of fragmenting upon impact, sending upwards of hundreds of pieces of lead into the surrounding tissue, sometimes radiating six or more inches from the bullet’s path. These fragments are often too small to be seen with the unaided eye. Unfortunately, the smaller the fragments, the more apt they are to be ingested and the faster they are to dissolve and enter the blood stream, be it animal or human.
Once in the blood, lead finds its way into the lungs, liver, kidneys, central nervous system and the brain. It can also settle in the bones where it may remain for years. With single or intermittent low doses, victims may eventually rid their blood of much of the lead, but permanent organ and neurological damage may have already occurred.
Non-lead, copper and copper alloy bullets rarely fragment upon impact, and even then, the metals are not nearly as toxic.
 
Visible symptoms of lead poisoning include general listlessness, gastrointestinal distress leading to a loss of appetite and weakness, lack of muscle coordination and blindness. And for an adult bald eagle, a BLL of one part per million is considered lethal.
At sub-lethal levels, lead can inflict long-term impacts including impaired vision, weakness and diminished coordination. Any of these conditions can render the victim prone to injuries and fatal accidents, or simply reduce their ability to successfully compete in the wild.
For example, the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center found that 85 percent of the injured eagles that came into their facility had elevated BLLs.
These sub-lethal levels may not appear to be the cause of death, but it is clearly a contributing factor– much as low alcohol levels may not kill humans, it can result in accidents that do.
Lead ammunition often fragments upon impact when a bullet hits its big game target. This results in more lead in carrion tissue, increasing the likelihood it will be ingested by a wide range of avian and mammal scavengers, from bald and golden eagles to ravens, wolves, foxes, coyotes, grizzly bears and, of course, people eating game meat on the dinner table.  Lead is toxic and exposure has been known to negatively affect learning in children.  Photos courtesy Greg Winston (http://www.gregwinstonphoto.com/about) and Craighead Beringia South in Jackson Hole
Lead ammunition often fragments upon impact when a bullet hits its big game target. This results in more lead in carrion tissue, increasing the likelihood it will be ingested by a wide range of avian and mammal scavengers, from bald and golden eagles to ravens, wolves, foxes, coyotes, grizzly bears and, of course, people eating game meat on the dinner table. Lead is toxic and exposure has been known to negatively affect learning in children. Photos courtesy Greg Winston (http://www.gregwinstonphoto.com/about) and Craighead Beringia South in Jackson Hole
Eagles are not the only victims of lead poisoning.  For decades, hunters’ lead has spelled trouble for one of America’s most endangered animal: the California Condor. By the mid-1980’s, the entire population of our continent’s largest flying land bird was reduced to a precarious 22 individuals. Literally teetering on the brink of extinction, the very controversial decision was made to capture all the wild condors and place them into captive breeding facilities.
Due to the success of that effort, today’s condor population numbers nearly 500- half of which are now flying free over northern Arizona and southern Utah, and along the California coast. The rest remain in captivity.
As pure scavengers, condors, like vultures, feed on what is already dead, including hunter–killed carcasses and gut piles, most of which harbor lead bullet fragments.  Just a few years ago, 50 percent of all known wild condor deaths were attributed to lead poisoning. And as one biologist warned, lead poisoning: “continues to preclude recovery”–­­ meaning long-term survival in the wild remains in doubt.
The survival of critically-endangered California condors remains threatened due to lead ammo in the environment. Photo courtesy Gavin Emmons/National Park Service
The survival of critically-endangered California condors remains threatened due to lead ammo in the environment. Photo courtesy Gavin Emmons/National Park Service
The vice-president of the American Bird Conservancy added, “In all likelihood, many more condors would likely have died from lead poisoning had it not been for the fact that wild condors in California are normally captured twice each year, tested for lead poisoning and then treated if necessary.”
The treatment for extreme lead poisoning in man or beast is Chelation therapy. It’s a lengthy process requiring the administration of edetate calcium disodium orally or subcutaneously over several weeks. The drug binds with blood stream lead and is then expelled as bird excrement, or in the case of mammals as urine.  It does not however, reverse organ damage.
RESEARCH IN GREATER YELLOWSTONE PUTS LEAD IN CROSSHAIRS
 
In the Yellowstone Ecosystem, several studies have addressed the occurrence of lead in the blood of avian scavengers associated with the region’s fall big game hunting season. It is estimated that as many as 500 tons of biomass are left on the landscape each hunting season as a result of un-retrieved game and gut piles. This becomes a major attractant for eagles, ravens, crows and magpies, plus the full contingent of mammalian scavengers including grizzly and black bears, wolves, coyotes and fox.
Researchers from Jackson Hole’s Craighead Beringia South and The Teton Raptor Center have documented the presence of substantial amounts of lead fragments in gut piles and in the processed meat from big game killed in the region.
Blood samples were taken from 81 bald eagles over the course of five seasons and not surprisingly, BLLs were significantly higher during the fall-winter big game hunting season then before or after.

As of 2013, the researchers attributed the death of at least two resident adult bald eagles to lead poisoning, no doubt resulting from feeding on lead infused gut piles- much as was the fate of golden eagle in Yellowstone.  They also reported that many of the eagles tested were migrants, meaning that the impacts of the toxic feast were being exported throughout the region and beyond.

A follow-up study of before, during and after hunting season involving over 300 blood samples from common ravens- another bona fide scavenger, found that the seasonal fluctuations of BLLs were identical to those for the bald eagles.
A separate study of 178 golden eagles captured during the fall migration in the western flyway, found that 72 percent had measurable levels of lead in their blood. Fourteen percent were considered either “clinically poisoned,” or “lethally exposed” to lead.
Just because eagles and ravens “fly off” and expel lead in their excrement doesn’t mean they’ve dodged the bullet. They might still be dealing with sub-lethal organ damage. What is their long-term prognosis, particularly recognizing that these tests are just momentary snap-shots of their health and it is highly likely that the eagles will continue to be exposed to the hunter’s lead?
A 2009 study found that samples from all 30 of the white-tailed deer killed by hunters in Wyoming using lead-core, copper-jacketed bullets contained metal fragments, 97 percent of which were lead. Further analysis found metal fragments in 324 ground meat packages randomly sampled from 24 of the 30 carcasses- 93 percent were lead. One package alone contained 168 lead fragments.
LEAD IN HISTORY AND ITS IMPACT ON PEOPLE
 
The biocidal nature of lead and the impact of lead poisoning on humans can be traced back to the Roman Empire. Researchers examining Roman archeological sites have identified lead in the pottery frequently used in wine making and its transport, in the lining of aqueducts, and in the cosmetics of the day.
Many historians believe that this broad, consistent exposure to lead eventually impaired the mental capacity of the ruling class in particular and may have contributed to the eventual downfall of the Roman Empire.
Fast-forward to the industrial age and the subsequent invention of the automobile and the use of leaded gasoline. With that combination of technologies, atmospheric lead suddenly became one of the primary sources of lead poisoning. (Diesel fuel does not contain lead.)
As a result of the 1963 Clean Air Act and its subsequent amendments, automakers were required to install catalytic converters in all cars manufactured after 1975. For the converters to function properly, only lead-free gasoline could be combusted.
Since the removal of lead from gasoline, it’s estimated that the average atmospheric lead level in the United States has dropped nearly 99 percent. The WHO lists lead as “a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple [human] body systems and is particularly harmful to young children.” Adverse health impacts include lower mental function, convulsions, coma, anemia, and even death.  Studies have shown that children with moderate to severe lead poisoning may be left with behavioral disorders, lowered I.Q. and mental retardation.
Elevated juvenile BLLs have been associated with antisocial behaviors including increased risk for adjudicated delinquency. Numerous studies have also demonstrated a strong correlation between childhood exposure to lead and higher rates of violent crime.
The US military has an active program aimed at reducing exposure to lead, especially for kids, for whom the negative effects of lead are irreversible. States one advisory, citing a wide range of risks, "Those who work in battery and bullet productions, home renovations, auto repair shops and firing ranges are at a higher risk of lead exposure."
The US military has an active program aimed at reducing exposure to lead, especially for kids, for whom the negative effects of lead are irreversible. States one advisory, citing a wide range of risks, “Those who work in battery and bullet productions, home renovations, auto repair shops and firing ranges are at a higher risk of lead exposure.”
Pregnant women with high BLLs may experience miscarriages, stillbirths, premature births and low birth weights, and infertility (a condition that can also affect men).
The CDC recommends that when an 80-pound child’s BLL exceed 5 micrograms per deciliter, that action be taken. This may consist of nothing more then removing all sources of lead from the victim’s environment. But here is the kicker; 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood in an 80-pound child is equivalent to approximately 0.000005 of an ounce of lead in all of his or her blood.
And when the blood level reaches 45 micrograms per deciliter- the level where Chelation therapy is recommended, the total lead in the child’s blood is about 0.00004 of an ounce.
Likewise, a 180-pound adult hunter with 5 micrograms per deciliter will have approximately 0.00001 of an ounce in his or her blood. Take this to the level where Chelation therapy is recommended (45 micrograms lead per deciliter), the same adult will have about 0.00009 of an ounce of lead in his or her’s blood.
By any measure, these are truly miniscule amounts, yet this is all that’s required to bring on long-term health problems, or even death.  For reference, a 150-grain, 30.06 lead bullet weighs about 0.34 of an ounce. Even with minimal fragmentation, there is enough lead in one bullet to pose serious health risks for all consumers of the meat.
Unlike the ubiquities nature of atmospheric lead, lead bullets poison a relatively select group: the families and friends who hunt and consume the earth’s bounty, and the wildlife that clean up after the killing.
PROPOSED REGULATIONS AND RESISTANCE FROM NRA AND OTHERS 
 
Lead shot is regulated to differing degrees in 23 European countries. Only Germany bans lead bullets for big game hunting and then, only in certain regions.
Closer to home, in March of 2009, then Acting National Park Service Director Dan Wenk (recently retired Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park), sent a memorandum to his senior leadership team, “require[ing] the use of non-lead based ammunition and fishing tackle in NPS units where those activities are authorized” by the end of 2010—“or sooner.”
The push back was immediate–within days the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its hunting allies claimed the “announcement demonstrated either complete ignorance or complete arrogance,” and a deliberate attempt to reduce the number of people wanting to hunt. The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) (the trade association for the ammunition and firearms industry) both jumped on the anti-ban wagon, as did numerous other sportsmen’s groups.
The pressure was so intense that just 14 days after sending the directive, the National Park Service issued a “clarification” that walked back the ban and vowed to work more closely with appropriate stakeholders and interest groups in a more public process.
Now, a decade later the National Park Service has still not managed to institute a service-wide ban on lead ammunition and fishing tackle.  This, in our national parks and monuments where picking a wild flower can bring a considerable, and appropriate citation.

Now, a decade later, the National Park Service has still not managed to institute a service-wide ban on lead ammunition and fishing tackle.  This, in our national parks and monuments where picking a wild flower can bring a considerable, and appropriate citation.

In what was seen by some as a last-minute effort by the Obama administration, then Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, Dan Ashe signed Director’s Order No. 219 that established a timeline to phase out the use of toxic, lead-based ammunition and fishing tackle on Service land and waters by the year 2022.  He did this on his last day in office.
Ashe’s Order was not two months old when summarily overturned by Montana’s own, and President Donald Trump’s newly appointed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has since resigned his position under a storm of investigations stemming from alleged illegal activities while in office.
As part of a monitoring program, lead sinkers, weights and lead shotgun shot were found in a bald eagle nest over the course of 10 years.  Photo courtesy National Park Service
As part of a monitoring program, lead sinkers, weights and lead shotgun shot were found in a bald eagle nest over the course of 10 years. Photo courtesy National Park Service
Before he left, the NRA thanked Zinke “on behalf of the five million members of the NRA and tens of millions of American sportsmen.” Even the National Wildlife Federation: “America’s largest and most trusted conservation organization,” disagreed with the Secretary Ashe’s order and tacitly supported Zinke’s action.
To the Federation’s credit, they have since walked back their position. They are now calling for “Reducing the use of lead shot and tackle and replacing it with increasingly available copper, steel, and tungsten alternatives.”
Unfortunately, the Federation seems unable to muster the metal to call for an outright ban on the use of lead in hunting and fishing activities.  They prefer to work collaboratively and have “an honest conversation” “with sportsmen, wildlife professionals, government agencies and industry about the science of how lead continues to afflict wildlife.”
Similarly, The Wildlife Society, the august fraternity of wildlife professionals is only able to support a phasing in of nontoxic ammunition and fishing tackle. They don’t dispute the toxic nature of recreational lead, in fact, many of their members have documented that very fact in peer reviewed articles. Yet, the Society, like the Federation avoids asking for an immediate, national ban on lead–not even a phased in ban with a firm deadline.
On August 13, 2019, the organization, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility released the following statement: “Under orders from the Trump Administration, the National Park Service is reviewing all hunting and fishing restrictions that are stricter than state game laws.”
This is driven in part by a 2018 Memorandum from then-Interior Secretary Zinke to compile all hunting and fishing orders that differ from state game laws for all lands under Interior’s purview. His order is considered as a “commitment to defer” to “State fish and wildlife management” for all lands within agency authority “except as otherwise required by Federal law.”
Clearly, this could place the management of lead ammunitions in state hands where the history of positive action is dismal.
In the absence of a national lead ban, the California legislature in 2008 passed a law prohibiting the use of lead bullets for most hunting activities within the range of the California Condor. Five years later, the state’s Governor, Jerry Brown signed a comprehensive bill phasing in a complete ban on lead ammunition used for the taking of any wildlife for any purpose in the entire state. This ban took effect on July 1 of this year, making California the only state to institute a statewide ban on lead bullets and shot for all hunting pursuits.
At least 30 states have various bans on the use of lead ammunitions. Some ban lead shot for specific upland species, or at specific locations. Only a few states actively “encourage” or “recommend” the use of non-lead bullets for big game hunting.
Neither Idaho nor Montana has state-level restrictions on the use of lead shot or bullets. Wyoming bans the use of lead shot on two of its state wildlife management areas.
Regionally, Grand Teton Park requires that non-lead bullets be used for its elk reduction program, while the adjacent National Elk Refuge only encourages hunters to use non-lead ammunition during its annual elk and bison hunts.

Regionally, Grand Teton Park requires that non-lead bullets be used for its elk reduction program, while the adjacent National Elk Refuge only encourages hunters to use non-lead ammunition during its annual elk and bison hunts.

In 1991, a federal ban was placed on the use of lead shot for all waterfowl hunting.  Fortunately, this nation-wide ban remains in place.
Because of the random nature in which restrictions are applied, it is incumbent upon every hunter to check with the appropriate agencies for the most current information.  Of course, the safest route is to go lead-free.
With thousands of technical and popular articles describing the toxic nature of lead and its health implications for wildlife and humans alike, why haven’t we mustered the forces to do the right thing? The answer is clear; every effort to do so has been met with incomprehensible resistance from the hunting community–lead by their friends at the NRA, Safari Club International and the NSSF.
Fanning the flames is the unjustified claim that it is yet another ploy by the animal rights activists and anti-hunting, anti-gun folks to limit gun rights and erode hunting opportunities. They all argue that the science isn’t definitive–conveniently ignoring the super abundance of evidence to the contrary–and the absence of evidence to support their own erroneous claims.
Lead bullet fans also argue that non-lead bullets don’t preform as well as the leaded counterparts, and that the non-leads cost more then the leaded equivalents.
Numerous articles have appeared in hunting magazines making the case that modern, non-lead bullets preform as well as the lead versions, and in some cases even better.
Ironically, in 2012, the NRA publication, American Hunter awarded the Barnes VOR-TX lead-free bullets, the “Ammunition Product of the Year Award.” Coming from the NRA, this is viewed as the best endorsement non-lead ammunition can receive.
And yet, the NRA vigorously resists every effort to ban lead ammunitions.
And in the past decade, the Army and Marines have “gone green;” swapping their small caliber lead bullets for a “copper slug and steel penetrator” version. After many years and tens-of-millions of dollars on research and testing, both services emphatically claim that the new “green” ammunition out performs traditional lead bullets in every aspect.
A hunter in the deer stand. Photo courtesy Steve Maslowski/US Fish and Wildlife Service
A hunter in the deer stand. Photo courtesy Steve Maslowski/US Fish and Wildlife Service
When it comes to costs, yes, non-lead bullets can cost more then traditional leaded versions. However, in many ways, it comes down to what is being compared to what. Currently, the cheapest lead bullets will certainly cost less then the best non-leaded versions. However, numerous professional hunters and sports writers state that when comparing similar high quality bullets, the price difference is minimal.
Even if $50 were spent for ammunition, it is arguably a small percentage of the overall outlay for a typical big game hunting experience, recently estimated to be between $1,500 and $2,100.
There are at least 28 manufactures producing lead-free rifle bullets in upwards of 35 calibers, including Barnes, Hornadys, Remington, Winchester and Federal. And as the technology improves and the demand grows, competition between manufacturers will likely close whatever cost gap that currently exists.
Likewise, many articles have been published in sporting magazines touting the health and environmental benefits of switching to non-lead bullets. The good news is that a growing number of hunters are opting for non-lead alternatives. It seems the organizations that claim to represent the sporting community may not be keeping up with their own members.

Many articles have been published in sporting magazines touting the health and environmental benefits of switching to non-lead bullets. The good news is that a growing number of hunters are opting for non-lead alternatives. It seems the organizations that claim to represent the sporting community may not be keeping up with their own members.

To understand how domineering these special interests are, consider that four decades ago we succeeded in getting the nation’s paint industry to get the lead out of its household products. And three decades ago we rid lead from new domestic water pipes. And 25 years ago we got the lead out of highway gasoline- imposing our collective will upon some of the largest corporations in the world.
And yet, we have not been able to ban lead ammunitions.
Are our elected officials and wildlife agencies so intimidated by, or be-holding to the NRA and their like-minded accomplices that they are afraid to step up and protect the well-being of our wildlife and the public? Is the NRA more intimidating then some of the world’s largest corporations? Or, are our agencies and elected officials simply not up to doing what is right?
With the hunting season upon us and in the absence of agency and legislative leadership, it’s up to each hunter to go lead-free.  To help make the switch happen, spouses, parents and loved-ones; buy a box of non-lead ammunition for the hunter in your life. Tell them it’s for their own health, for the health of your family, and for the health of our beloved wildlife.
And agencies, it’s time to at least actively promote the use of non-lead ammunition. And electeds, it’s time to pass legislation banning lead ammunitions.
 “Wild” and “natural” means little if the game meat we put on our tables contains toxic lead.
EDITOR’S NOTE: What are the arguments against bans on lead ammunition? Two workers at a gun shop hold forth in the video below making assertions that Camenzind addresses in his piece above.

Officials hunt for suspected pigeon killer after 40 found dead in Somerset

AT RISK: The dead birds showed no obvious injuries or signs of disease, leading to suspicions there was a pigeon poisoner on the loose

AT RISK: The dead birds showed no obvious injuries or signs of disease, leading to suspicions there was a pigeon poisoner on the loose

OFFICIALS in Somerset are hunting a suspected bird poisoner after more than 40 pigeons were killed – including some that fell out of the sky dead.

Investigators including police and the RSPCA are looking into a spate of dead pigeons in Wells and say it is possible they were poisoned.

The birds started appearing in the High Street and beyond at the end of July – on roads, pavements and in people’s gardens.

The birds showed no obvious injuries or signs of disease, leading to suspicions there was a pigeon poisoner in the city.

As many as 40 dead birds have been reported.

One woman found three in her garden and there there was even a report of one falling out of the sky and landing on a woman carrying a coffee.

It was suggested the birds might have been suffering from “pigeon canker”, a disease prevalent during the breeding season.

But autopsy carried out voluntarily vets proved ‘inconclusive’.

Wells City Councillor Celia Wride said: “I must say poisoning was my immediate reaction at the time.

“If this is a case of somebody putting down some killer feed for them we need to find out and do something about it. This is not the way to go about things.”

The matter has been referred to the police who passed it on to Natural England, the Government quango that advises the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on conservation and wildlife.

Natural England passed the matter onto the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which has responsibility through the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme.

It is an offence to injure or kill a wild bird under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, except under licence, and offenders can face an unlimited fine and/or six months imprisonment.

Tests for bird flu and West Nile Virus carried out by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) proved negative.

A spokesman for the HSE said: “While HSE are unable to confirm the range of tests carried out by APHA as part of this post-mortem, the report provided did not state a view that disease was responsible for the pigeons’ deaths.”

Further analysis of tissue samples is currently being carried out by Fera Science Limited to determine if pesticides were used. This can take up to eight weeks.

If the toxicological report does indicate pesticide use, this information will be considered along with the field investigation report to try to identify whether the exposure took place from an approved use or not.

If abuse is suspected, then the information will be referred back to the police who are responsible for catching the pigeon poisoner.

A spokesperson for the RSPCA said: “We are not sure what has happened, but we believe they may have been poisoned.

“The pigeons were taken to a vet by a member of the public and post mortems carried out.”

As well as being a deliberate act of poisoning the spokesperson said any potential source could also include poisonous substances not being safely stowed away.

Anyone with information that might help with the investigations is asked to call the RSPCA on 0300 123 8018 in confidence.

‘Euthanized’ Not the Right Word for Killings of Geese in Salisbury

https://www.delmarvanow.com/story/opinion/readers/2019/07/12/euthanized-not-right-word-killings-geese-letter/1694858001/

‘Euthanized’ not the right word for killings of geese in Salisbury: Letter

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Last week, 362 Canada geese were euthanized, by request of the city of Salisbury to manage “an excessive population.” Kelly Powers, Salisbury Daily Times

Re: “Hundreds of geese euthanized in Salisbury, meat goes to local shelters,” July 8, 2019.

I object to use of the term “euthanize” in this coverage of the cruel roundup, transport and gassing to death of the Canada geese.

This government-industry term is a euphemism designed to disguise great suffering inflicted on defenseless creatures.

“Euthanasia” is a Greek term meaning “a good death.” It means a death that is merciful, peaceful, compassionate and humane — the opposite of being attacked, shoved into transport crates and delivered to a slaughterhouse and exposed to the slow, terrifying experience of suffocation.

Inhalation of carbon dioxide is painful and distressing to birds because they, like humans, have chemical receptors that are acutely sensitive to carbon dioxide.

There are reams of studies demonstrating the panicked effort of birds to escape chambers filled with carbon dioxide, which simultaneously burns and freezes their lungs. This gas is used in mass-exterminations of birds because it is cheap.

The fact that CO2 is “approved” by the American Veterinary Medical Association defies the well-documented fact that CO2 in inhumane.

The roundup of the geese in Salisbury is sickening to contemplate. It shows a failure of compassion and civility toward birds we should cherish rather than banish from our world.

Karen Davis is president of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit that seeks to promote the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. She is a resident of Machipongo, Virginia.

 

Letter by UPC President Karen Davis published July 12, 2019 on Delmarva
Now

– Karen Davis, President, United Poultry Concerns

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https://www.delmarvanow.com/story/news/local/maryland/2019/07/08/hundreds-geese-euthanized-salisbury-ocean-pines-jake-day-zoo/1630152001/

Hundreds of geese euthanized in Salisbury, meat goes to food shelters

Last week, 362 Canada geese were euthanized, by request of the city of Salisbury to manage “an excessive population.” Kelly Powers, Salisbury Daily Times

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Some leave constellations of droppings along the river, others down fairways, while others are watched happily as they graze.

But hundreds fewer geese are going to be seen waddling around Salisbury for the time being.

Kevin Sullivan of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services confirmed his team humanely euthanized 362 resident Canada geese two weeks ago, brought in by request of the city of Salisbury to manage “an excessive population.”

“The city of Salisbury reached out to USDA Wildlife Services to see how they might manage an over-population of Canada geese throughout the city, leaving droppings and over-grazing, habitat damage (and) polluting waters,” said Sullivan, director for Maryland, Delaware and Washington D.C.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources conducts an annual waterfowl survey, and the estimated Canada goose population decreased by about 61% from 2018 to 2019 — resting at about 250,200 state-wide as of February estimates.

No estimates from Salisbury could be provided.

Salisbury has worked with the USDA on goose population control for about 13 to 14 years, Sullivan said, but he believes this is the first time the city has turned to this method.

Mayor Jake Day did not comment on the specifics of the decision, nor has any official comment been provided on behalf of the the city’s Field Operations Department, the point of contact with Wildlife Services according to Sullivan.

The method used recently involved a large roundup of the birds, in multiple locations around the city, according to Sullivan.

“With some nets and panels, we surround the geese; we capture them; we put them in poultry crates and transport them to a waterfowl processor,” Sullivan said. “Then the meat is processed and given to food shelters.”

However, the Maryland Food Bank’s Eastern Shore branch as well as the Salvation Army’s local branch said they did not receive the processed meat.

Sullivan said the geese are euthanized in a humane method in line with American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines — euthanized with a carbon dioxide mixture.

The USDA consults with many communities on nonlethal tactics of handling goose populations, many of which Salisbury has routinely used in the past to combat the issue.

Israel arrests man over Golan Heights mass vulture poisoning

Poisoned vultures on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (10/05/19)Image copyrightISRAEL NATURE AND PARKS AUTHORITY
Image captionIsraeli officials say the deaths have devastated the vulture population

Police in Israel have arrested a man suspected of poisoning nearly half of the rare vulture population in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The suspect, in his 30s, was detained in the Bedouin village of Tuba-Zangariyye, police said.

Eight out of 20 griffon vultures remaining in the area were found dead on Friday morning

The incident was a major blow to efforts to save the population, which has sharply declined in recent years.

In a statement shared on social media on Sunday (in Hebrew), police did not give further details about the suspect or his alleged motive but said the investigation into the incident was continuing.

Local media reports stated that the suspect was accused of spreading poison over the carcass of a cow to kill predators.

He was said to be unaware that vultures might consume it.

A fox and two jackals were also found dead, while two sick vultures were taken to a wildlife clinic for treatment, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) said.

Vets treating the sick vultures told Haaretz newspaper that there had been a “substantial improvement” in one of the birds, and that it may soon be released back into the wild.

Officials in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights have been trying to increase the vulture count there amid a dramatic decline in the population over the past 20 years.

Their numbers have reportedly dropped from 130 in 1998 to around 20 prior to the latest deaths.

Many have been poisoned, allegedly by local farmers whose herds are threatened by predators, Israeli news website Walla says.

The killing on Friday of so many birds was a “mortal blow” to the population, INPA Director Shaul Goldstein told AFP news agency.

Golan Heights map

INPA said it was even worse that the poisoning happened during nesting season, meaning eggs now might not hatch and chicks might not survive.

The authority said it would do everything possible to find out who was responsible and bring them to justice.

Most of the Syrian Golan Heights has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war. In March, the US became the first country to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the area since Israel effectively annexed it in 1981.

Deadliest plastic trash ingested by seabirds revealed in new study

Balloons ingested by seabirds are more deadly to them than hard plastics, a study released last week concluded.

Studying the cause of death of more than 1,700 seabirds, researchers from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania and other organizations concluded balloons are the “highest-risk plastic debris item for seabirds,” a statement regarding the study’s findings, which were published in the journal Scientific Reports on March 1, states.

DUCKS, GEESE IN COLORADO DYING FROM ‘NEW DUCK DISEASE,’ PROMPTING WARNING FROM WILDLIFE OFFICIALS

Of the 1,733 seabirds studied, scientists found that one in three of the birds had ingested marine debris prior to its death.

Though hard plastic typically accounts for the majority of marine debris ingested by seabirds, it is “far less likely to kill than soft plastics such as balloons,” the researchers concluded, according to the statement. In fact, balloons are “32 times more likely to kill than ingesting hard plastics,” they found.

“Among the birds we studied the leading cause of death was blockage of the gastrointestinal tract, followed by infections or other complications caused by gastrointestinal obstructions. Although soft plastics accounted for just 5 percent of the items ingested they were responsible for more than 40 percent of the mortalities,” the study’s lead author and a doctoral candidate with IMAS, Lauren Roman, said in the statement.

LIFE-SIZE TIGER STATUE IN VIRGINIA ALLEYWAY ‘SHOCKS’ PATROLLING POLICE OFFICER

“Balloons or balloon fragments were the marine debris most likely to cause mortality, and they killed almost one in five of the seabirds that ingested them,” she continued, noting researchers hypothesized hard plastic fragments pass quickly through the bird’s gut while soft plastics “are likely to become compacted and cause fatal obstructions.”

The researchers said their findings “have significant implications for quantifying seabird mortality due to debris ingestion, and provide identifiable policy targets aimed to reduce mortality for threatened species worldwide.”

Marijuana farms are driving this adorable forest creature to extinction

A furry, cat-size carnivore called the Humboldt marten is struggling to survive in an area sprouted with marijuana farms, and now California wants to protect the adorable creature by declaring it an endangered species.

The state’s declaration would apply only within state lines and wouldn’t offer federal protections.

A member of the weasel family, the Humboldt marten (Martes caurina humboldtensis) lives deep inside the redwood forests of the Pacific Northwest, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. The elusive animal was once thought to be extinct, but it was rediscovered in 1996. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that 95 percent of the marten’s habitat has disappeared due to deforestation. [In Images: 100 Most Threatened Species]

There are two populations of Humboldt martens remaining: a group of about 100 in Oregon, and another group of about 200 in northern California, right where cannabis cultivation is booming, The Guardianreported. In Humboldt County, California, where the martens are found, there are an estimated 4,000 to 15,000 cannabis cultivation sites, The Guardian reported. That’s in addition to the illegal operations and “trespass grows” on public or tribal lands, The Guardian reported.

Cannabis cultivation is likely the biggest reason for the Humboldt marten’s decline, The Guardian reported. Not only are forests cleared to make room for farming, but many cannabis farmers also use rodenticides that make their way into the forest food chain, killing anything that eats rodents, including the martens. Live Science reported on a similar story in January about spotted owls (Strix occidentalis) in this same region of California that are dying after eating prey killed with toxic rodenticide left out by marijuana farmers.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reviewed a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and the California-based Environmental Protection Information Center asking the state to list the animal as endangered. The marten is currently classified by California as a species of special concern, but a status review from the CDFW found that listing the species as endangered is warranted, The Mercury News reported. The final determination is expected to be made in August, The Mercury News reported.

Original article on Live Science.